Malaysia stepped into the breach left by the United States by submitting a plan to prevent tobacco companies from using an international trade agreement to challenge national controls, said a leading US anti-smoking group.
Trade ministers meeting in Brunei heard the Malaysian proposal to remove tobacco products from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) being negotiated by officials from a dozen Pacific Rim countries. Taking tobacco out of TPP would eliminate its future use in tobacco regulatory challenges, said Tobacco-Free Kids.
“The tobacco industry and its allies in governments increasingly use trade and investment agreements to challenge legitimate tobacco control measures,” the anti-tobacco group said. “These costly challenges are aimed not only at defeating tobacco control measures, but also at discouraging governments from enacting them in the first place.”
Malaysia’s proposal came after the US backed off a plan with similar intent. The Office of the US Trade Representative earlier this month said it would instead propose addressing health issues associated with tobacco use, for the first time in a trade agreement, but would not seek to set a precedent for exclusion of an agricultural product.
A TPP working group meeting in September will discuss the tobacco submissions, according to Tobacco-Free Kids. Trade officials from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam will conclude the 19th round of TPP talks on 30 Aug.